Is controlling one guy too easy for you? Full Spectrum Warrior (FSW) lets you command eight soldiers or more through the hostile and made-up Zekistan, where fleeing Taliban and Iraqi loyalists are mounting. Originally developed to train U.S. infantry, packaged with an online co-op option, and promised realistic combat requiring some planning out, is Full Spectrum Warrior the war sim all those tactical buffs have been waiting for?
One of FSW’s most apparent strengths is how it immerses you into a modern urban-combat experience by way of quality visuals. The empty streets and abandoned lots, destroyed cars and turned over carts are how I’ve always pictured a war-stricken Middle Eastern city. All the character models are top notch, each with their own distinctive voice to accompany it. Unfortunately, what the graphics do to pull you into the game the underwhelming sound affects almost completely pull you back out of it. Though this may be in part because of the battle’s small scale (shootouts with more then a dozen people total are rare), the exchange of powerful weaponry is lacking in intensity. Even air strikes fail to catch your attention.
The first thing I questioned before playing was the control scheme. With strategy games it is very easy for a developer to make the controls very complex and in the process ruin the enjoyment value. Fortunately controlling your men is pretty simple. For most of the game all you will need to know is how to move your men and order them to shoot. To move your men all you have to do is move the joystick to an area and press A. You don’t need to worry about positioning each individual man, the game does that for you. Pressing X will bring up a firing cursor. To shoot at an enemy move the cursor his direction and press A. For a lot of commands there are a couple of options, for instance you can order your men to take more accurate burst shots or they can put down suppressing fire, where they will shoot at the designated area continually until ordered to cease fire. Commands generally differentiate by how long you hold down a certain button.
Gameplay places a heavy emphasis on finding cover. Enemies have a tendency to appear around corners as you approach them. If a terrorist spots you and you find yourself with no place to run for cover you’re in deep trouble, in large part because your soldiers rarely shoot if not ordered to, even when being shot at. At first this will happen often, but once you learn to efficiently use cover fire and move from one dumpster to the next you will no longer be frustrated from constantly being caught off-guard.
However this could be considered a bad thing. Once you learn to look out for enemies (when there is a car, dumpster, flipped table, etc… 90% of the time there are enemies near by) the commando feeling you get from smoothly moving your men systematical through the city gets old. The game lacks surprises after the first couple of chapters (12 in total). Where are the ambushes? I want to step into something and then have to think on my feet to get out of it. Instead I can take all the time in the world as long as I have cover that won’t fall apart and leave me vulnerable.
Switching between two squads, at times three, can get mind-numbing. So when you tire of doing so you can go on Xbox Live and play some co-op. In co-op you control one squad while a teammate controls the other. While this limits the things you have to do, it makes the experience a whole lot cooler, since you have to communicate with another person to coordinate a plan of action. Also available with a Live connection is downloadable content, some of which has already been released.
Full Spectrum Warrior is a very solid combat simulator, quite possibly the best on the Xbox. However, action is on the slow side and the extent of strategy you will use doesn’t go beyond finding a way to attack your enemies from the side. If you have an Xbox Live connection the game is a bit more enjoyable, but unless you’re willing to sacrifice entertainment for repetitive and systematic combat, Full Spectrum Warrior might not float your boat.
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